Friday, April 19, 2019

You have made your decision to separate (escape) from your spouse or you have made your decision with your Attorney to file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Unfortunately, based on economics today, many married couples must co-habitate in the same residence during the divorce (and for reasons advised by their Attorney other than economic) which I assure you is hell as a contested divorce, due to the financial crisis in the Judiciary creating a shortage of judges, may take 3 to 36 months.

However, if you are able to move out from the residence based on your decision or the advice of your Attorney (because your spouse is refusing to vacate the residence and you lack ability to obtain an immediate court order for their removal), please be acutely aware of the following:

1. Until you vacate the residence,  your spouse will search every square inch of the house, your personal belongings, your automobile, your computer (beware of keystroke programs), your cell phone, your social media (Facebook, etc.) to ascertain notes, messages, texts, emails, money, etc. for many different reasons;

2. You should obtain a replacement garage door opener and program it to the code of your opener to have access through the garage door as future entry into the garage and/or residence after you vacate. Your spouse may change the locks on the residence but often he/she does not remember to change the code on the garage door opener. If the residence is in joint names, you may obtain a locksmith to let you in at any time, but this is usually childish and dangerous. If possible, you should make copies of all keys to automobiles, residence, storage units, locks, etc.

3. You should remove any item that is sentimental to you, i.e., grandmother's dish, photographs, gold coin from father, etc., in that any items that are sentimental that you leave behind may disappear and your spouse will allege that you took them with you and that you are the one who lost them. Because they are sentimental, your Attorney cannot obtain replacement items or compensation for fair market value versus if a television is missing, it is easy to ascertain the fair market value and obtain money for replacement. There is no way to replace sentimental items;

4. You should remove all small items of high value, i.e., jewelry, watches, coins, stock certificates, bonds, etc. as again, if they disappear, your spouse will state that you have them and at this time there is conflicting testimony and the Court, unless the Judge makes a decision based on one person's credibility substantially outweighing the other person's creditability, the assets may not be distributed to either party;

5. You should remove (or copy) all important documents, safe deposit key(s) and copy or upload to a secure Cloud all important information contained on any stationary computer hard drives (CPU) and any other music or social content;

6. You should photograph or electronically record all items remaining in the residence and garage and create a master index of all tangible property left at the residence. Therefore, if any of the property is damaged or disappears, you may seek replacement fair market value of the property. Furthermore, you will need a master inventory for division of all tangible property during your dissolution of marriage, and this is a perfect time to make the inventory, or if you don't have time, you will have the pictures to prepare the inventory at a later time;

7. If you have decided to take bedroom furniture and other furniture, please be aware the Judge will be reviewing the situation to determine if it was done in a fair manner.  If a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage has been filed by you or your spouse, there is a Standing Family Law Court Order and it more likely than not prevents you from removing property from the house. Always discuss removal of furniture and other large items from the house/garage with your Attorney before doing so. If you decide to do so either on your own or per permission of your Attorney, please be extremely careful in removing said items as if you are doing it without knowledge of your spouse and your spouse returns home during your move, it is an extremely dangerous situation.

If you must move the items out without knowledge or notice to your spouse, make sure you do it during a time when you know your spouse will not be present for hours in the residence and that you have several adult witnesses with you to observe the removal and moving of the items. You may also notify your local police prior to the removal of items that you may need an officer to do a "keep the peace" check. I do not advise removing any large items that do not have sentimental value and have easy replacement value as the shock and trauma alone of removal of property to your spouse may cause unforeseen reactions from your spouse, as a spouse often reacts versus responds when confronted with relationship issues. Therefore, please do not do so unless you have discussed it with your Attorney and he/she has granted permission to do so or if it is absolutely necessary for you to do so;

8. If you have a child, before you vacate the marital residence (presumably with the child) you must discuss the matter with your Attorney to make sure your moving out of the residence with the child does not harm any of your goals with regard to a proper parenting plan and time sharing schedule between you and your spouse;

9. Removing any pets (dog, cat, spider, lizard, fish, etc.) must be pre-planned with regard to whether your landlord allows a pet. You will need the veterinarian records for upcoming shots, etc.  An appropriate message must be left for your spouse notifying your spouse that the pet was removed so that your spouse does not believe the pet has simply disappeared. Be very careful which pet(s) to remove as if your spouse is emotionally dependent on that pet, even though you are affectionate toward the pet, the pet should be with the person who has a greater emotional dependence on the pet;

10. You should discuss with your Attorney which financial accounts to remove and transfer money. There are many reasons to remove sometimes less than one-half and sometimes greater than one-half of the money in checking/savings accounts. Financial institutions may need to be notified to put a "hold" on the account so your spouse cannot take any additional funds. Any cash should be removed from the residence, as again, if it disappears, your spouse will allege that you have it;

11. You should discuss with your Attorney which credit cards, equityline and other debt accounts to cease your spouse's authorized use of or to terminate if in joint names, or if in joint names and you cannot terminate, a decision must be made whether to withdraw the remaining funds available to safeguard during the dissolution process. Generally, if your spouse is not financially responsible you should remove your spouse as an authorized user on all your credit cards and notify the financial institution with an equityline, whether secured to real property or not, to "freeze" the equityline so that it is not maxed out by your spouse. This is a delicate decision as your spouse may be dependent upon certain credit cards and if their dependence on the credit cards is of essence for the day to day survival or raising of your child, then it may be wise not to cancel those credit cards;

12. After you have vacated the residence, you should notify your neighbors that you trust (be very careful who you trust) that you are no longer living in the neighborhood and you would appreciate if they would keep an eye out on the residence as that way you will be able to receive updates on what is going on at your residence. If the residence is in joint names, you are welcome to stop by any time to review the caretaking of the residence as long as you are confident there will not be any domestic violence with your spouse when you are in the process of a "walk-through".

13. You may want to install a "GPS" tracker on the automobile of your spouse if it is titled in your name, or your name and your spouse's name (joint names). Contact a private detective / "Spy store” or review the internet for devices and information. Tracking your spouse reveals many salient facts with regard to potential paramours, entertainment, etc.

These are several matters to consider when vacating your marital residence, but of course, these suggestions should be reviewed in detail with your Attorney as there are probably other issues to consider based on your particular facts of your marriage.